1. Intent focused
2. A systems perspective
3. Thinking in Time
4. Intelligent Opportunism
These are the five elements that make up strategic thinking as described by Dr. Jeanne M. Liedtka, a faculty member at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business and former chief learning officer at United Technologies Corporation.
- A compelling vision of change. First and foremost, of how the world, your community will be different.
- The way. While setting an inspirational and meaningful goal is critical, without articulating your path to that goal you’ll not really being strategic, are you?
- The will. While plans are more than paper and the planning process itself should unleash new understanding and meaning, you have to believe enough in what you’ve committed to to start acting on your strategy in all you do.
- Leadership. This may or may not be a proverb, but I love this saying “the community goat starves to death.” Someone has to take ownership of the plan to move it forward. Hopefully, that’s your board. And your CEO. And each and every person in the organization.
- Courage. You’ve probably made some big stretches in your plan. To quote Francis Perkins:
“Most of man’s problems upon this planet, in the long history of the race, have been met and solved either partially or as a whole by experiment based on common sense and carried out with courage.”
If you are starting your strategic planning, here are a few other tips for you:
“It’s really not that complicated. The creative process is trying really hard to solve a problem.”
Isn’t that the essence of strategic planning?
While our missions aren’t necessarily problems, the goal of getting from where we are today to realizing our mission can be seen as a big puzzle that we are trying to solve. (Puzzle = problem). Whether we’re ending homelessness, or ensuring our kids graduate from school ready for success in life, or challenging and inspiring others through art – we are all seeking the best path to achieve our mission.
Captain Ahab set out from New Bedford, Massachusetts, with just one idea: putting his harpoon in the ultimate big fish, Moby Dick. His all or nothing approach didn’t work out so well for anyone but the whale.
The Coalition for Buzzard’s Bay got a far happier result by spreading nets in many different waters when they set out on their own New Bedford-based quest to grow membership by more than 50 percent over the last two years
While I believe in the power of nonprofits to change lives, I also know that our institutions are a small part of the picture. The easily measured usually serve as band aids or incubators. It’s a lot harder to measure the efforts of the advocates or catalysts for widescale change.
I’d hate to see philanthropy distracted from enabling big system societal changes. Let’s not invest excessive amounts of energy in measuring and evaluating individual nonprofits in isolation, and miss the bigger systems that need our attention.